IN Daily Opinion/Column

Business coaches for advisers: Do they work?

Apr 14, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

By Evan Cooper

I'd be interested in getting adviser feedback about the use of business coaches. Lately, it seems as if I've received a dozen e-mails from business coaches and other “experts” trying to sell me on doing a story about how they help advisers.

I'm skeptical.

While I'm all for hiring a specialist to help with marketing, public relations, technology or any area in which specialized experience can be very useful, I have my doubts about employing someone whose expertise is so ill-defined.

What is an adviser coach supposed to do?

If it's overall management consulting, maybe that makes sense. On the other hand, most advisory businesses are small. They don't have the huge managerial problems of corporate behemoths.

Most of the problems at advisory firms relate to hiring a few good people, finding the right clients and managing to do the million tasks that have to get done. A super-duper administrative assistant and a clever marketer would be more valuable to the average advisory firm than a corps of consultants from McKinsey & Co.

But most of the pitches I get from coaches are 180 degrees removed from no-nonsense and specific. Most are vague and have either a New Agey spiritual feel or use vacuous managementspeak to describe what the coach will deliver. Phrases such as “leadership competencies,” “change process” and “moving to the next level” appear in a lot of this stuff.

Some of the coaches have even trademarked their “process” so that a tiny TM symbol appears next to “The Synergize for Success System” or some other dynamic sounding yet essentially meaningless series of words. Maybe that kind of language is persuasive, but I think it sounds like BS Bingo.

Most adviser coaches, I believe, fulfill the same function as your mother: to tell you what you already know what you should be doing — like wearing a sweater if it's cold outside or getting rid of an annoying client with a $10,000 account.

But I could be wrong. If you have used a business coach successfully and have been satisfied with the outcome, let me know. Respond below, telling us what the coach specifically did to help you and whether he or she was worth the expense.

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